George Souhan, the 70 year old owner of Seneca Falls' WSFW (1110) and WSFW-FM (99.3), announced last week that he's selling the stations that his family has owned (except for an 8 year interregnum) since they signed on the air decades ago.
Here's how the deal shakes out: Souhan will sell the stations to Family Life Ministries of Bath, which operates an extensive noncomm network of religious FMs across upstate New York and northern Pennsylvania. Family Life will then trade WSFW AM/FM to George Kimble's Radio Group for Kimble's WLLW (93.7 Clyde), which serves the eastern Finger Lakes from studios in Auburn.
From a programming standpoint, WLLW's rock format and calls will move from 93.7 to 99.3, Family Life will take 93.7 religious under new calls, and WSFW(AM) will switch from satellite classic country to satellite adult standards (the same format Kimble now runs on WAUB 1590 in Auburn).
So why is this being treated as a big deal in Seneca Falls? Simple: WSFW was an unusually community-oriented radio station. From the little downtown storefront with the big radio dial over the window, WSFW was the voice for community events and information in Seneca County. The county has no daily newspaper of its own, and its only other radio station is WNYR (98.5 Waterloo), which is owned by none other than George Kimble and runs a mostly-satellite AC format from studios in Geneva, Ontario County. Once this deal closes, Kimble will own a string of Finger Lakes stations from WCGR Canandaigua to WGVA Geneva to WNYR to the new WSFW/WLLW combo to WAUB -- and his only commercial radio competition in the northern Finger Lakes will be WFLK (101.7 Geneva) and WYLF (850 Penn Yan), owned by his brother Russ Kimble.
In fairness to George Kimble, he's trying to make the best of the situation -- he tells NERW no decision has been made yet about whether the Seneca Falls studios will be closed, and he says he'll try to keep as many WSFW employees as he can afford. And we're certainly happy to see the stations stay in the hands of owners based in the region. It's just hard to imagine that the state of affairs in Seneca County will be helped any by the inevitable decrease in local programming that will follow WSFW's farewell broadcast next Friday...
And the Sound of Life religious folks have been busy this week: they've signed on WLJH (90.9 Glens Falls), the last of their pending construction permits in the Hudson Valley. Also new to the air is W206AW (89.1 Pawling), a translator of WFGB Kingston that's reported to be putting a solid signal into New Milford and parts of Danbury across the Connecticut line from its transmitter on a hill in Dover Plains.
Unfortunately for Citadel, the secret got out a bit early, thanks to the folks at broadcastmusic.com who handled WXBB's Web streaming. Visits to their WXBB site on Thursday showed the logo and calls for "WSHK, The Shark" -- and sure enough, that's what launched this morning as the repositioned, male-oriented version of the station's classic rock format. (Visits to the shark1053.com site before the launch were greeted by the words "Go Away.")
In the minutes leading up to the launch, the stations played a montage of phone calls from listeners wondering what was up with the musical loop -- which leads NERW to wonder: is it a good idea to annoy your listeners that much when you're not making a really dramatic format change? We suspect WHEB picked up some new sampling on Thursday from rock fans who missed the Arrow.
As for talent, the Shark's new "Hammerheads" morning show features a name better known to Albany listeners: Bob Mason, half of the "Mason and Sheehan" morning show last heard on WXCR.
The new calls aren't in the FCC database yet, but the 6 AM legal sounded like WSHK for 105.3 and WSHA for 102.1; we'll keep you posted when it becomes official.
Elsewhere in the Granite State, Konrad Kayne takes over fill-in duties on WJYY (105.5 Concord)'s morning drive, recently departed by Kevin Hilley.
Former WIZN jock Rich Haskell is bowing out of radio at the end of next week; he's been across town at WCPV (101.3 Essex) for the last four years.
And a federal judge has ruled against a certain Rutland pirate -- who's obeying the injunction and looking at Webcasting for the moment instead.
Last week's mini-rant on the developing battle between WUMB and WAVM provoked some e-mail from both sides, including a lengthy note from WUMB general manager Pat Monteith, who points out that WUMB has faced no end of headaches itself in its attempts to serve its listeners -- starting with a ten-year fight against WGBH, WERS, and Capital Cities (WPRO-FM Providence) to secure the original 91.9 Boston license back in the early '80s.
Monteith also points out that religious applications in Lexington and Lunenburg on 91.7 will be hard for WUMB to fight because neither community is within the 60 dBu contours of the WUMB and WBPR transmitters, respectively.
And in fairness to the folks at WUMB, Monteith says she's hoping "we can sit down with the folks at Maynard High School in the near future to see if there is a solution which does not have to be so devastating for all." That's not the kind of response (or lack of response) we've become accustomed to hearing from the religious networks, and it's refreshing.
It's a situation without an easy solution. WUMB offers a unique community service, especially to listeners in the western suburbs who lost the folk programming of WADN (may it rest in peace) a few years back. We don't dispute WUMB's desire to better serve its listeners in that area who now struggle to pick up a fringe signal from the 91.9 transmitter in Quincy.
At the same time, WAVM is trying to hold on to what it's been doing for 27 years now -- super-serving its small town in a way no Boston station (or even the chain-owned weekly Maynard Beacon) can. Applying for a power increase is the only way that an otherwise unprotected class D station like WAVM can keep from being squeezed off the airwaves entirely (if not by the WUMB application, then by the Lunenburg 91.7 application). Should WAVM have applied to do this years ago? Hindsight suggests it, but those of us who have worked with student-run stations know how funding and administration issues can make moves like that impossible at the time they're most needed; just ask Concord High School's WIQH (88.3), now off the air for lack of interest.
In the meantime, WAVM is stepping up its campaign for support (check out the Web site at www.wavm.org for more), bolstered by some newsgroup criticism of WUMB that makes anything that's appeared in this space sound tame. NERW wonders whether, given WAVM's limited broadcast schedule, some kind of share-time arrangement could be the saving grace here? Just a thought...and now that we know WUMB's reading the column, it'll reach the right ears.
Rhode Island's NPR station is sounding a bit more local. WRNI (1290 Providence) and WXNI (1230 Westerly) debuted "Rhode Island Tonight" last week, replacing the 8-10 PM rebroadcast of "The Connection." The program will run four times this spring, leading up to a fall launch of a nightly public-affairs show.
Applicants for 105.7 there include: Affinity (5 kW, classic rock); CHUM Group, which already owns CKLC-CFLY Kingston (26.6 kW; soft AC); McColman Media (4 kW; soft AC); Power Broadcasting, which already owns CFFX-CFMK Kingston (15.74 kHz; new rock); and John Wright (24 kW; rock).
The CBC is applying for two new transmitters in Sudbury, both 50kW FMs. The broadcaster plans to use 90.1 for CBC Radio Two and 90.9 for the French chaîne culturelle service. Years ago, the FM Atlas listed 90.1 as CBBS, running what was then the CBC Stereo network, but NERW's not sure whether this was a planned-but-never-built transmitter or one that was shut down by budget cuts. The new signals will join the existing CBC Radio One (CBCS 99.9) and Radio-Canada première chaîne (CBON 98.1) signals up there.
A network of low-power country signals? That's what Roger de Brabant wants; he already has one in Timmins and now he's applying for 98.3 in North Bay and 103.5 in New Liskeard, both running well under 100 watts. The Canadian version of LPFM is alive and well up north; Tri-Tel is applying for 94.3 in Timmins for a 50 watt CHR outlet!
And a long-defunct Quebec City AM frequency may soon come back to life. Yves Sauve is applying for a 10 kilowatt full-time license for a French-language country station in St.-Nicolas, on the south shore of the St. Lawrence a few miles upriver of Quebec City. Sauve wants 1060 kHz, last heard in the capital as CJRP before the Radiomédia merger of the early 90s. NERW wonders if anyone will ever file for the other abandoned AM frequencies in Quebec City, 980 (ex-CBV), 1280 (ex-CKCV), or the long-gone 1kW 1340 (ex-CFOM)?
That's all for this week; more next Friday.